Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Recipes From Across the Pond

Nothing says "The Holidays" more than stuffing your face full of baked goods and sweets! Here are a few recipes that may or may not have tried that would be great to bring to the table this holiday season.

Stollen is a traditional bread dating back to 15th century Germany. The shape of the bread is said to have originally represented Jesus in swaddling clothes, though I honestly only see delicious marzipan wrapped in a crusty, fruity, sugary, bread. This is a very easy recipe to follow, though if you are short on time you can use self raising flour instead of AP but STILL USE THE YEAST AS WELL.

(recipe from Seona Chapman)
1/3 cup warm milk
1 T yeast
2 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
1 large egg
1/2 t salt
1/3 cup mixed raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup candied peel
6 oz marzipan

Dissolve yeast in warm milk and let set until creamy (about 10 minutes). Add 2 cups of the flour, sugar, butter, egg, and lastly salt and combine. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in fruit and peel. Continue kneading until smooth (about 8 minutes). Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside. Place somewhere warm and cover with a damp towel. Allow to set until dough doubles in size (about 1 hour). Turn dough out onto a greased cookie sheet and spread flat (does not need to be properly rolled out). Taking your marzipan, create a long cord and place it in the middle of the dough. Wrap the dough around the marzipan, being sure to pinch all the seams. Place cookie sheet someplace warm and allow to proof for one hour. Preheat oven to 350* and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300* and bake for 40 minutes or until done. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar, if you have some handy, and serve!

Gingerbread has a bit of an odd history. It's said that the original recipe was brought to Europe in the year 992 by an Armenian monk by the name of Gregory Makar, when he traveled to France. The recipe then traveled northward to Germany and Sweden (the nuns discovered that it aided with indigestion!), and eventually made it's way to Shropshire, UK, a town that prides itself on it's famous gingerbread. The earliest recorded mention of gingerbread in the UK is 1793- that's 801 years after it's original creation! I suppose word didn't travel as fast back then! There are many recipes for gingerbread cookies out there today, and believe me I have tried many. So far this is my favorite. If it's rolled properly it is very sturdy for gingerbread houses, as well as perfect for gingerbread men, or any other shapes you'd like to cut out!

Gingerbread Cookies
(recipe from here)
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup shortening, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.In a medium bowl, mix together the shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are completely absorbed. Divide dough into 3 pieces, pat down to 1 1/2 inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. When the cookies are done, they will look dry, but still be soft to the touch. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on wire racks. When cool, the cookies can be frosted with the icing of your choice.

Bûche de Noël is a traditional French cake made around Christmas. Others may know it as "yule log" or "giant Swiss cake roll" but I think everyone can agree on one thing- they are delicious! While I haven't been able to dig up much history on the baked good, my sources unanimously associate it with French tradition. I used a recipe from Martha Stewart, but even though it was very simple, I didn't agree with her "pinch" of baking soda because it was very vague and my genoise turned flatter than it really should have been. For that reason I have altered the leavener in the following recipe, though I cannot take credit for the recipe, itself.

Bûche de Noël
(from Martha Stewart)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for parchment and pan
2/3 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1/2 t of baking soda
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 1/2-by-15 1/2-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan. Line with parchment; butter and flour paper, tapping out the excess flour. Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda together twice into a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Skim off white foam, and pour clear yellow butter into a bowl, discarding white liquid at the bottom. Set aside in a warm place.

In a medium-size heat-proof bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water; stir until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, and beat on high speed until mixture is thick and pale and has tripled in bulk. Reduce speed to medium, add vanilla, and beat 2 to 3 minutes more. In three additions, sift flour mixture over egg mixture, folding in gently with a spatula. While folding in last addition, dribble melted butter over batter and fold in.
Spread batter evenly in pan, leaving behind any unincorporated butter in the bottom of the bowl. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until cake springs back when touched in center, 15 to 20 minutes. Don't overbake or cake will crack. Let sit in pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
Dust surface with cocoa powder. To make rolling easier, trim edges of cake, and cover with a sheet of waxed paper and a damp dish towel. Invert onto a work surface, and peel off parchment; dust with cocoa. Starting from one long end, carefully roll up cake in towel, and leave until cool

To assemble, unroll the cooled cake and slather with chocolate frosting (MS suggests chocolate mousse, which would be delicious, but I used buttercream). Re-roll the cake carefully and frost the outside (again you could use buttercream, but more traditionally ganache is used). Assemble on a platter and sprinkle with confectioners sugar to give the appearance of snow. If you'd like, create some mushrooms or holly out of marzipan or fondant to decorate. Or just go crazy and make a bird, like Jake did!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Executing Your Cross-Continental Adventure part 1.

Now that we have completed the "planning," let's begin a new series with our first edition:

Executing Your Cross-Continental Adventure
Part 1: Five Ways to Document Your Trip

There are a lot of different ways for you to keep track of the adventures you have during your cross-continental adventure. Most of these are fairly common, though there are a couple that you may not have considered. Some require a bit more packing space than others, so if you are traveling light you may enjoy the ones marked with an *asterisk* (this does not mean that you shouldn't do these if you have plenty of room, we are actually doing four of these methods and we are currently only carrying one backpack and one shoulder bag between us!).

*Creating a Sketchbook*
Our most recent method of documentation has been our investment in a sketchbook. While it was the cheapest of all these mediums, it does require the most time. Basically, we use this book to draw and write in whenever we feel inspired. The subjects thus far have never been of places we have been or people we have met- just ideas that whirl through our brains as we travel. Of course, this is not the highest recommendation if you dislike drawing, but if you consider yourself artistic, it is a fun and unique way of compiling all of your inspirations in one. Ours has been a great way for Jake to practice calligraphy and for me to practice drawing and watercolors.
the plus side: Very inexpensive, especially depending on the tools you choose to work with. While you may choose to bring paints, pastels, etc., if you choose to bring only a pencil you will not need to worry about them take up much space in your luggage. Keeping a sketch book and dating your work is also a good way to see how your style and skill progresses throughout your journey- especially if you are just beginning.
the negatives: This is the worst possible option for those who dislike drawing or other types of art. Keeping a sketchbook also requires a bit of care to keep it from getting stained, wet, or otherwise damaged. If you carry paints or other mediums, you also run risk of them spilling and/or staining your other items.

*Keeping a Journal*
Our original intent was to record our thoughts and stories in journals that we had made for us. It was quite nice during long layovers and bus or train rides, but we haven't kept up with it like we had planned to. Journals are a great way to record memories as well as vital information such as addresses and phone numbers hostels, flight times, bus schedules, etc. It is better if the journal is small so that it may easily be carried from place to place.
the plus side: Journals can be a very nice way to record everything you have done, and information about people you have met. It is nice to read about your adventures post-journey, and is something that is easy to share with others.
the negatives: depending on the quality of your journal, it could quite easily get torn and stained throughout your journey. It might also be difficult for some (like myself) to properly keep up to date with entries, especially if you record them another way (such as online).

Collecting Items
This is quite vague, I know, but I didn't feel I should get too specific in the title. Some people have items that they already collect- shot glasses, glass elephants, spoons, postcards, brochures, magnets, etc., which could be added to during their journey. What we have started to do (thanks to Kevin!) is collect beer coasters from every pub we go to throughout Europe. On the back we write the date, town, and name of the pub. We aren't sure what we will do with them when we get home, but we will probably frame the group of them with tags under each one with information about where it came from.
the plus side: Collecting things can be a fun way of keeping track of where you have been, and are great to show off on display when you return home
the negatives: This can add a LOT of extra weight depending on the type of item you are collecting and how many places you go. Also, if you are doing a lot of traveling, the items you are gathering with likely be crushed, broken, or mangled...which is fine if the integrity of the items does not matter (we don't particularly care if are coasters are frayed or stained just as long as we have them!).

Taking Photographs
This is a given. I don't know of ANY traveler who has not brought a digital camera with them. Taking pictures is the fastest way of documenting memories and sharing images with people back home. Most folks choose to go with digital photography, as we did originally, but Jake ended up having his film camera sent to us so that he could take the kinds of pictures he wanted rather than just run-of-the-mill tourist shots. While carrying many cameras isn't wise if you are traveling light, it is a great way to bring contrast to your photos. Also, if you travel with a friend or a group, you also receive different styles and perspectives throughout your journey.
the plus side: Fast, easy way to document memories. Photos can be used in a variety of projects post-journey such as prints, scrapbooks, postcards, calendars, etc. Also a great way to get creative if you have some time to focus on certain shots
the negatives: Batteries are the biggest downside to cameras. If you have a rechargeable battery, you are always hunting for a place to juice it up, if you rely on AA or AAA batteries, you are carrying a lot of extra weight and spending a lot of money. Cameras are also more likely to be broken or stolen in crowded areas.

Making a Blog
Blogging is becoming more and more popular by the day. While it may seem that "everyone is doing it," I still find blogs to be one of the most accessible sources of information on travel, reviews, and ideas. When I am planning to go someplace, I love reading about what others have done when they were there, how they likes where they went, and what they recommend I try. Creating a blog is very simple, and can be a fast way to record the daily (or weekly) events of your trip. When I blog about my adventures, I typically will type them when the inspiration hits, and then just save them in a text document until I have internet access again.
the plus side: Blogging is an easy way to share your adventures "as they happen" (or almost, anyways) by sending the link to friends and family where they can read about what you are doing and leave feedback. It is also a great way to share the photos you have been taking throughout your adventures.
the negatives: Unless you spend a lot of time in internet cafes, you will need to bring a netbook or laptop. This could add extra weight to your luggage, and unfortunately it makes you a slave to electricity again (which can be a pain if both your camera AND laptop die at the same time...priorities!). It can also be a hassle to some to be updating all the time, or they could feel bothered by others wanting more information than time allows.

*note: due to laziness, none of the pictures were taken by me therefore I take no credit for any of their beauty, ugliness, otherwise adjectively described presences. These images can be found on along with many others. Thank you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Getting Around the UK

I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I have been working very hard to try and understand transportation in the UK. And I still don't. It is obscenely more expensive than transportation throughout the EU, and you reaaaally have to dig deep to find cheap results. For example, today I spent my afternoon on the hunt for cheap transportation to London from Witham. I thought it would be very cheap, it's literally two hours away. WRONG. Not only that, but prices were changing drastically by the minute! I would type in the same search criteria every half hour and be presented with different results. It was frustrating and confusing, and I still don't really understand how I went from having a 48£ ticket to a $69£ one in half an hour.

Therefore, I am going to provide you with a serious of links that will hopefully be of assistance. I generally open every one of these in different tabs and search them all at once. This is helpful especially if you are not picky about the mode of transportation and/or the amount of time it takes you to travel.

This has been a lifesaver, really. Instead of having to go to every single cheap-airline website (e.g. ryanair, bmibaby, jet2, easyjet, thomascook) you can type your information into this website and it will search them ALL at once. You can even be as vague as saying "United Kingdom to Anywhere" if you are really just looking for the cheapest flight out. I have seen results for as low as 2£ doing this.

National Express
There are a lot of special parts of the National Express website where you can get cheap deals, but you need to look for them. Fun Fares are very cheap (they say some are as low as 3£ but I generally find them for about 7.50£ ) but you need to book in advance.

Berry's Coaches
I don't know very much about this website, because I literally only discovered it today. As I said, I spent most of the afternoon researching my own transportation and would not have come across this one had it not been for Seona. I haven't discovered it's in's and out's yet, but I'm sure they have some.

There is a special place in my heart set aside for my loathing of megabus. Not for any particular reason, really, except that I never have any luck with it. They require specific routes, and sometimes they are not even very affordable. I feel like it would be nonsense if I didn't include them, however, just know they aren't my number one recommendation. Along with them, you can also check Megatrain and Megaplus for other "great deals."


I absolutely BEG that you ignore my advice to use It is the largest rip-off ever, only second to the official Eurail website. Of course different websites are better for different countries, but these are some of the best for the UK.

National Rail
While prices are still usually in the hundreds, they are not nearly as obscene as the others.

This is the website that I used to book my tickets to London. While I was incredibly frustrated by the drastically fluctuating prices, the fact that the registration page is annoying as hell, and the stupid 3.50£ charge for using a credit card (even though it won't let you use the free debit card option when you ARE using a debit card!) it was worth the hassle for the price of the tickets. I wasn't able to find my journey for any less than 70£ on the other websites (not without additional fees, anyways) but was able to on this one. I was also very happy to have the option of buying my railcard for the Tube in the same purchase- very handy and time saving in the long run!

I hope these links are helpful to you when planning your journey around the UK. My biggest piece of advice is book your tickets early! WEEKS EARLY! if you really want to save money. If you have done some traveling through the UK and have some links you'd like to share, please leave a comment and I will include them in the post! As I said, I am far from an expert, and I would love to hear about more transportation options within the UK.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bit Boaresque

The social life of a world explorer is likely to be overwhelming, especially if you are like me and happen to be graced with less than awesome social skills. I feel offensive every time we are in a pub because as soon as I am asked what I want to drink, I am instantly reminded that I very rarely go to bars and that my chance of ordering a frozen mango margarita at Seymour Arms is literally ZERO percent. I then go through my inner-rolodex...eyes rolling back into my head, inwardly debating between "just order a beer, any beer!" to "idk, something with whiskey?!" mostly dreading the possible situation of asking for something that they are either a. out of b. don't have or c. have never heard of if their lives. By the time I snap back to reality, everyone is usually looking at me and saying, "Well you don't HAVE to get anything..." with a look as though I had made an uncomfortably rude joke.

I only mention this because if you have this problem, the UK isn't the smartest place to go. I am lucky, though, that most times we go to the pub it is because we are eating lunch at Margaret and George's house that is LITERALLY right next door, so I generally just let Jake go play Bar Billiards with "the other blokes" while I sit on the "settee" and watch the "telly" by the fire as Gwyn and Tom run around. Yes, it is nice, but not the most social.

I really had my chance to blossom at bingo last Friday night. "Witham Friary Annual Bingo," to be precise. We were told that people come from ALL OVER the county to play bingo, and we were very excited. The lot of us filed in, and George showed us the ropes (even spotting us some quid for an extra play book) and eyed the prizes to be won. Jake and I were very focused and mostly just stuck to ourselves, chatting with Seona about the prices of bus tickets to Portugal. It was at that moment that the most dreadful thing happened! Seona stood up, on her way to the toilets and said, "Portugal? Her boyfriend is from Portugal, ask her about it!" pointing to a young girl behind us before dashing out of sight.

I froze. I was not prepared for this! I turn around slowly, think real hard and say to the girl, "Cool," and faced forwards again. I knew that it probably came across as super bitchy so I thought real hard again, turned back around and asked, "We saw some really cheap bus tickets to there but before then it wasn't really ever a place I thought of as worth-while." NICE, KELLY. It was like when I took the moment to take a good hard think, I instead decided to come up with the most pompous statement ever. I heard myself and prayed that she wouldn't take it as rudely as it sounded. Luckily, she only asked where the tickets were to. I responded, and while I was now at the point of desperation as to not sound like blue-assed baboon throwing nasty word-poops at the nearest innocent people I stuck with, "Is it nice there?"Behold! The intermission had ended, and bingo was beginning again! This meant that I only received a smile and nod from my new friend and we were back to an activity that I AM good at- staring at numbers looking confused.

It seems that the only folk that I am appropriately able to socialize with are perhaps the wild boar that are currently inhabiting the woods (and sometimes fields, and sometimes gardens) of Witham Friary. Rumor has it that the Duke of Somerset (our county...I say "our" like I live here...) is aware of the boar, which by the way are NOT normal for this area, and is just "keeping an eye on them." There is a lot of fuss about them because, as previously stated, their appearances are not normal especially for such a large group. We had seen them run past the house last week and Jake and I followed them to find that there were THIRTEEN of these beasts. Also, apparently yesterday, one of the neighbors was CHARGED BY ONE in his garden in the early morning! That is not to say that I am only able to make friends with wild creatures that have tusks, but mostly to say that I, like the wild boar in question, am merely just acting like myself and as a result it makes others slightly confused and a bit offended (and perhaps occasionally fearful). So I guess you could say that I am a bit boary. Perhaps boarish. Or even better, boaresque.

Friday, November 19, 2010

We Call This a SUPERPOST!

Okay, okay, I know I owe you a bit of details, gentle viewers, but you must understand that life as a free soul is just hard to put into words! I kid, it's actually quite easy to put into words, it's just finding the time to put it in the words. No, that's complete bullshit, I have all the time in the world, really, I just haven't felt the need to write lately, and let's face it friends, you're on my time now.

A recap is definitely in order, because the amount of content that I am about to force your way is so overwhelming, your head just might implode. We will begin at Via Piana *insert elegant harp music as your imagination brings you along a rainbow to the time and place of which I speak.* Basically, after the whole chicken ordeal, it began to rain an epic fuck-ton. And that's a lot of rain. It poured for the remainder of our time there, which meant no picking olives. Instead, we sanded door frames, doors, window frames, etc. at Via Piana (rather than the Farm Stay, etc.) It was good fun, and we really enjoyed staying there, but unfortunately Wednesday rolled around and it was time for Jacob and I to begin our next adventure.

Anna drove us to Sora around 9:45am to catch the next bus to Rome where we would be taking a night train (which I later composed a song about) to Treviso. We got to Rome at around 11:00am I suppose, but our train wasn't until 10:00pm. Queue the incredibly long wait in really, really cold conditions and the occasional thunder and lightening. We waited our 11 hours, occasionally running to a fruit market to stock up on snacks (where we conversed with the most ADORABLE old Italian couple in the WORLD) or to a cafe where we could spend out the asshole for a 1/4 full tiny cup of coffee and then get KICKED OUT for no reason other than the fact that the girl at the counter was a raging bitch. However, we did make it onto the train and proceeded to sleep.

We arrived in Treviso at 6:45am and made our way to the airport with ease- just had to take a bus. Treviso is an airport town....aka a nothing-town. There is an airport, and maybe 4 really expensive restaurants. Not comforting when you are looking at a 14 hour wait. Yes, folks, our plane was not scheduled to take off until 8pm. Yes, we could have blown about 20 Euro to go "see the sights" in Venice, but it would have cost an ungodly amount of money to even be in the town, and it wouldn't have been worth it for only a day trip. So we waited. When we finally boarded the plane, I fell asleep instantly. No surprise, since I got maybe 4 hours of cumulative sleep on the train. The flight was only two hours I think, with an incredibly rough landing. It was very windy and we hit turbulence on descent, and everyone on the plane was crying or yelling "oh my God!" which would have worried me more had I not been in a drowsy stupor. However, we did land, and all was well.

Filing into the immigration center, we were prepared as well as could be. We had the contact information of who we were staying with, proof of employment when we return, our return flight ticket, and good spirits. By the time we had filled out our landing cards, the place was empty. Gulp. We step up to the plate, and Mr. Immigration Officer throws the first pitch, "What's the nature of your visit?" "We're on holiday." BALL ONE! "Where are you staying?" "*Insert Name & Address*" BALL TWO! "How long will you be staying in The United Kingdom?" "Three months, here is our return flight home." BALL THREE! "You know that you are not allowed to work during your stay in the UK, right?" "Of course not!" GRAND SLAM!!!!!!!! Everything was great, and we collected our luggage (the last one there) before proceeding through to the lobby.

Currency exchange kiosks are for the birds, let me just say. They absolutely rape you. We had 10 pounds worth of Euros (exactly the amount we needed to catch our bus to Nottingham), but they charged us 5 pounds in commission so we were utterly effed. The ATM wasn't reading our debit card, and when we tried getting cash back it didn't work either. Inevitably, Jake's bearded charm got us a half-price bus ticket to our destination, and we were on our way. We were supposed to stay with a very generous couch surfer, but because of our predicament we did not want to have to walk all the way to his house (after arriving two hours late at that) and simply called to let him know we wouldn't be able to make it. We figured we could crash at the bus station and try taking an earlier bus.

We arrived at the Nottingham bus station at about midnight- picture, if you will, a giant green warehouse with icicles for seats, and a cold cement floor. After waiting for about an hour, the night watchman told us that there was a 24 hour McDonald's up the road that might be warmer. Why not, we thought, and began to walk there. Jake had a hankering for fries, but AGAIN had trouble with the machine! Apparently cards in the UK have a microchip in them that US cards DO NOT have which poses quite a problem. However, they gave us the fries for free and we sat there munching for a bit before we were joined by our good friend, John. You see, John was a young man in his twenties who was absolutely drunk beyond all reason. He came to our table and sat next to Jake. "Are you okay?" he asked Jake, "Yeah, I'm good," Jake replied. John gets very close to Jake's face, "You have an amazing beard- use that to your advantage."

We spent the next two hours chatting with John about his status as a Peruvian hate-figure, life in England, and his friend's grandmother in Bath. He invited us to crash on his couch, but we refused for the sole fear that he would wake up sober and have no idea who we were. It was an awesome couple hours, though, and provided some much-needed entertainment. Though, once John left, we decided to leave as well. Returning to our cold, depressing bus station, we curled up on the seats, (since we had been yelled at for sitting on our bags on the floor- "just one of those things," the man said.) which were 10x colder than the outside (where we were also forbidden to sit), and tried to get some sleep. We got 15 minutes of dozing in, here and there, before our bus finally arrived at 7:50am.

The bus ride was great, we fell asleep for pretty much the whole time (the driver even commented on Jake's snoring) except for when we needed to change buses in Bristol. When we got to Bath it was pouring- the storm that had apparently followed us from Via Piana, if I had to guess (though with the amount of precipitation England gets on a daily basis, it was probably just an average thing). We were soon greeted by Seona and here son, Gwyn, and escorted to their car. It was so weird getting into the passenger seat (aka the driver's seat, back home), but so unbelievably comforting to not be driving with a tiny Italian woman on tiny Italian roads. I swear, Rosa created the definition of "bad driver" for me.

And that was last Friday. Wow, it's already been a week! The adventures here aren't as outrageous as they were in Italy, mostly because we are staying with normal people in a country where we can speak the language. It is also amazing because we are staying with the most charming family I have ever met. The children, obsessed with Scooby-Doo, are stunningly adorable, Chris and Jake are so similar that it's almost eerie (from their love of photography, to little mannerisms that Seona and I pick up on), and Seona is just brimming with kindness. While we have been here she has taught me to knit, toted us around Frume and Bruton (where we watched as her and a group of musicians just played music for hours), and has made us the most delicious homecooked meals outside of home.

I really wish there were more to say, but life here is so utterly simple and beautiful, that there isn't much to it. We help the family for a few hours in the morning, just with everyday tasks, and then we spend the rest of the day knitting, drawing, writing, taking pictures, reading, eating....and that's our day. So simple, so awesome.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Wine is the Juice of Life"

It was a rough morning following the evening of Mr. Fawkes. It had been a bit chilly in the night, but I awoke to discover about 5 more blankets below my sleeping bag (a realization that would prove to be helpful in my future nights' sleep). We awoke around 7:20AM and went to the common room to have some breakfast. At around 8:00AM we began walking toward the Farm Stay. Although we were technically Anna's volunteers, she had been "lending us" to the Farm Stay to help with the olive harvest. The Farm Stay is a place for guests as opposed to Via Piana which is a place that is being built to one day be for guests. There were three volunteers at the Farm Stay, Olga, Theresa, and Jennifer (aka Sophie) who we met once we arrived.

We met up with Giuseppe and the others and began picking olives. It was pretty simple, really. There is an olive tree, then a net that is spread out on the ground at the base of the tree. Then, you use your hands or a small rake to remove the olives from the tree. When the olives are off the tree, you pour them into a crate, and you move onto the next one! We did this for about 4 hours before returning to the main building for lunch. We were served pasta with fish, Baccala (salt cod), and plentiful amounts of Giuseppe's wine. I'm telling you, I have never had wine like this in my life! It puts Massimo's wine to shame…almost to a degree that would embarrass a grape, itself.

After lunch, Giuseppe asked us if we would like to watch him kill a chicken. Felipe sat this one out, but Jake, Chris, and I gave it a go. I have always felt that you should know where you food comes from, and how it gets to you, and I wanted to stay true to that. I expected one of two things to happen:
1. For Giuseppe to snap the chicken's neck, and drop it to the ground where it would flop around for a bit before laying still or
2. For Giuseppe to cut the head off with an axe, after which the chicken with writhe like a fish out of water for a bit before laying still.
Well, instead, I saw option 3.

Giuseppe pulls a burlap sack out of a trash can where you can hear the clucking begin. He pulls out a chicken and carries it by it's feet to a large stump. He picks up a small, rusted axe and with a swift motion, strikes the bird in the neck. He then throws it to the side and picks up the next. The first chicken, head half on, is flopping beside us. No, not flopping…flipping. It is flipping in circles about a foot into the air, flapping it's wings, and somehow still making noise. After about a minute of this, I had to leave. The chicken had not stopped moving, and it was far too much for me. Needless to say, the chicken did not taste very good to me at lunch the next day.

We walked with Chris to The Mogli to help with the cleanup from the festivities of the previous night. He told us stories of killing wild boar which, while relatively disturbing, helped us to understand what had happened with the chickens. We all agreed that while it wasn't a pleasant experience, it is something we were glad we witnessed for the sake of food. After cleaning up the area, we headed back to Via Piana. We still had half the day at our disposal, and none of it required picking chestnuts.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Remember, Remeber, The Fifth of November

Leaving Positano was heartbreaking, but needed. We had blown through quite a lot of money in three days, which was the majority of our funds, and it became very important that we get where we were going before we were tempted to spend anything else. To be fair, a lot of the money was to pay for the Agrotourismo and our bus tickets, but it also went to a lot of good food and beer. Our good old pal Felipe had hooked us up with a stay with his host, so we would be headed to Sora to reunite with him.

We took the torturous ride back, though is was less vomit inducing this time. I just toked up on some motion sickness meds and fell asleep for most the ride. From Sorrento we took the train to Naples, and then a bus onward to Sora. We were soon picked up by Anna, our host, a very young, sweet looking girl who spoke English amazingly well. She brought us to the supermarket to pick up some food before driving us to Via Piana- our temporary home. "Your accommodations are very…rustic. The house is without electricity, I hope this is okay," she told us. We told her that it was fine, that we were just happy to have a place to stay. "The common room has a fireplace and electricity, and there is also a bathroom," she adds, "but sometimes, when it rains, it rains in your room." We pull down the narrow road and she leads us to our room. It is on the top floor of a large stone building. Inside there is a large bed with several blankets, and two bureaus. It was not very cold, and the room felt very cosy for being so "rustic." She led us to the common room and showed us where we could leave our groceries. A moment later the rickety wooden door was kicked in! "'Ey, 'ey kids!" Felipe shouted as he storms through the door with a case of Peroni in his arms. He threw it to the table *insert creative license* and replaces the empty space in his arms with Jacob's warm embrace. They hug passionately- both inwardly ecstatic to have been reunited. They knew they would meet again, and this was only evidence that their love was everlasting *end dramatic recreation*.

Felipe quickly introduced us to Nathan, a Florida-based former military brat who has been traveling the world for an extended period of time, and with that we were off. Jake, Felipe, Nathan, Anna, and I pile into the car and she brings us to a path that we were to follow to The Mogli. You see, it was the 5th of November (Guy Fawke's day of course!) and we were going to have a "proper celebration" if ever there were one. We followed the path and came to a large empty field with a fire burning in the middle and a large stone house in the shadows behind. As we approached, Felipe introduced us to Guy, and explained that it is his inevitable fate to be burned at the end of the night. After, we met Christopher, a mad-bomber-hat wearing guy from Leeds, and our host for the evening. A grand feast was being prepared upon the fire; wild boar, wild mushrooms that had been picked earlier that day, rice, potatoes, and of course- beer.

Anna arrived a few minutes later with Giuseppe, wine-making extraordinaire and father of the property owner. He spoke no English, but the most eloquent Italian I had heard since arriving. For hours, the group of us ate, drank, and sang songs around the campfire. Felicita and Baronne, the two dogs of the property, joined in and sat cozily near the fire as we shared stories about home and our travels, and watched the stars up above us. I did not know what time it was, but could tell it was getting late based on how far the stars had moved since we'd arrived. After our ceremonial "burning of Guy," Felipe recited the famous "Remember, Remember" poem, and we made our way back to Via Piana.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Lost My Heart in Positano

On a slow, boring night at Whole Foods last spring I went around asking everyone where the coolest place they'd been was. Many listed places that I had been to, but my boss listed someplace I had never heard of. That place was Positano, Italy.

Our trip to Positano has been a bit of a whim. Since that conversation with Rob, I've had this town on my list of places to visit, but I wasn't sure how to get there, where to stay, or what there would be to even do there. However, on a particularly rough afternoon of chestnut picking, Jacob and I decided to take the plunge and make our reservation. The first hurdle (and blessing) we ran into was that November is the low season. This means that although many places are closed, those that stay open have lower rates in order to attract business. Our least expensive option was an Agrotourismo called Rifugio Degli Dei and after looking at the pictures for a solid 5 seconds, we were booked. The price was 40 Euro per person, per night bringing our total to 160 Euro. This might make you feel a bit hurt in the wallet, but you must understand two facts. 1. This is the same price we paid at the cheapest hotel in Paris where we were relatively afraid to go out at night and 2. This place is more beautiful than anyplace I have seen in my life, and therefore more than worth the money.

I have a problem with motion sickness when not appropriately medicated for the ride, which was incredibly evident during our ride from Sorrento to Positano. Our bus had to drive along roads that were wrapped all the way up and down a mountain in order for us to reach our destination. It's not a long ride, though, maybe about half an hour. However, if you even get the slightest bit queazy on a Disney World ride, I whole heartedly recommend you take a mighty dose of Dramamine before this ride. After arriving in Positano, myself and Jake both covered in my early-morning croissant (round 2), Jake made a call to the "hotel" to see if we could be picked up. It would be quite the walk because we had gotten off the bus at the wrong stop (mostly so I could get some air), and we weren't entirely sure that I could walk at that point. The man said no problem, and within five minutes he had arrived. Even post-puke I was in love with Positano. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and even the most beautiful pictures didn't do it justice. As we arrived at our destination, we were greeted by a set of 250 stairs (which they give you ample warning about on the website) and began climbing.

Weak and sick, these stairs were no problem. The stone walls were covered in flowering vines, quick lizards, set next to tiny houses with fresh fruits hanging overhead. We arrived at the top and were welcomed by a black sheep with a small bell around it's neck. A few steps more and we were offered a seat where our host brought us water and let us rest. A small kitten and it's mother ran to us and began making us at home- the kitten played with an olive as the mother invited herself into Jake's lap, purring incessantly. A moment later, a small, round dog appeared. She was clearly pregnant and beyond adorable. Dumbfounded by our surroundings of hanging vegetables, pomegranate trees, and nearby goats, we were led to our "room." I use quotes so often when describing this place because it is unlike anyplace you have ever stayed. Our "room" has a full kitchen and living room, large bathroom, and separate bedroom with a king sized bed. In addition, we have a patio with lawn chairs and table set under an olive tree and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Our stay at Rifugio Degli Dei has easily been our best experience since arriving in Europe- we give it 5 stars!

The food in Positano is very expensive. About equal to Paris, but certainly more than Napoli. For this reason, we decided to take full advantage of our cooking skills and our gorgeous kitchen by making our own lunch and dinner the second day. I'm sure many would be appalled by the fact that we are not indulging in local fare, but what they fail to realize that we are. Are ingredients are fresh, local, handmade Italian ingredients that are merely assembled by our American hands. Plus, we have been learning to cook from an old-Italian couple in the hills of Montefalcione, so I think we are making the right call here. However, all of these ingredients can be found at home, so if you would like to have "Italian Night" sometime, I'll give you the recipe for our lunch today.

2 pkg. Fresh Tortellini (this can be found in the refrigerated aisle at Whole Foods and most other grocers- you may use another pasta if you'd like, but I recommend ravioli or tortellini as it is stuffed)
2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (regular will do as well)
1 lg can Whole Tomatoes
1/4 lb. Salami (thinly sliced)
2 lg. Green Onions (sliced)
Salt to Taste

In a saute pan, heat oil slightly. Add green onions and salami. Cook until green onions are soft, then add full can of tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes while stirring (they don't need to be fully broken, just enough for them to become smaller), and cover. Allow to heat, stirring occasionally. Be sure to season and taste.

While sauce is heating, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to boiling water until it "tastes like the ocean." Add pasta and allow to cook until it floats. Drain pasta, and return to pot. Add heated sauce, and serve while hot.

We enjoyed our meal with a glass of Peroni (beer) although a nice wine may be better in this case.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"If you ask that old lady what time it is in Italian, we'll chug our beers"

Now that we have changed months I don't even know how to count days anymore. For that reason, you will have to just trust me on the dates. On Monday, the five of us headed for Napoli. We had arranged to stay at Hotel Bellini in a shared room with five beds. The price was right- 16 Euro per person per night. They had free wifi, breakfast, and gave us a very thorough map of the city. Mar had plans to meet with a friend, but the rest of us headed toward the coast for some pizza and a possible trip to Posilipo.

It was windy as all hell, but fun nonetheless. We walked through several street "markets" (I use quotes because these markets were not legal, and therefore anytime a police car would drive down the road every vendor would grab their shit and run into the alley until the cop had passed) where I bought a beautifully amazing scarf and my first pair of Italian pants! I will also note that these are also my ONLY pair of pants as I primarily packed leggings and windpants (for work). So excited for my new clothes, the group and I returned to the hostel. Our plans to go to a club that evening were viciously interrupted by several strikes of lightening. As soon as we entered the hostel, the sky tore open and the thunder and lightening took over. Buckets of rain began to fall, and the thunder was so loud that the windows shook. Though it was sad that we were all stuck inside that night, it was much preferred to the alternative of being soaked and struck by lightening.

Tuesday, the sky was still a bit angry, but the rain had stopped. Mar and Robby were headed to Pompei with a Scottish guy that they met at the hostel (who had also been eating at the same pizzeria as us the day before!) while Jessica, Jake, and I were on our way to Sorrento. The man at Hotel Bellini had arranged a hostel for us with a 10% discount, so we were all set to go. After a long train ride from Napoli Central Station, we arrived in Sorrento. The hostel we stayed at was not as nice as the last, but definitely not bad. We dropped our stuff off in our room, and left to find some lunch. Rosa had recommended that we get lasagna at Bar Fauno in the center of the town, but it looked way to touristy for our liking.

As we made our way through the narrow streets of Sorrento, we ran into an old man who guided us to a small restaurant. We first thought that he was a regular of the establishment, but later found out that we had been duped! He was the owner! No matter, because the food was incredible. I indulged myself in sea bass with lemon sauce while Jake and Jessica each had pasta. We spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening "bar hopping" in many senses. The first being that we spent the majority of our evening drinking beer from several places including a couple stops at the grocery store. The second being that we ate at about three separate gelaterias. And the third being that we ate many a-pastry at several different bakeries.

The night ended at a restaurant by the train station where I severely had to pee. Jake approached the employee (probably about 20 years old) and asked for a table for three (in Italian of course). The kid told Jake that he was sorry, but they were no longer serving dinner. We were very confused because it was only 7:30PM….how could they not be serving dinner?! Still lasagna bound, I approached the young man and asked in Italian, "Where can I find lasagna?" Oh, how the tables turned! "No! You eat here! My friends can cook you good lasagna," he replies in English, pointing over his shoulder at the five young men sitting at the bar. "Grazie!" I reply as Jessica and I take a seat, "but you should say 'where can i eat the lasagna' rather than 'find the lasagna'," he adds as an afterthought.

We get our lasagna (still cold in the middle, but I was lucky enough to not find something gross inside), and I ask the guy in Italian, "where is the party tonight?" He laughs and replies (in English! Again! What the hell!), "Let me go ask my friends…" By this point we are all laughing hysterically, and the boy returns, "They say perhaps in the center. It is Tuesday, so probably no where else." We thank the poor boy, pay our bill, and return to the hostel. While we were disappointed that the "party" was forced to end at a mere 9:00, it was probably for our own good. After all, we would have to wake early to part ways the next morning.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wool for the Skin

Days Thirty-One & Two

Rosa's insanity continued on Saturday as we continued our chestnut picking rituals, but this time it was more progressive. In the morning, she came downstairs and told us that if we were to work all day Saturday & Sunday, we could have Monday & Tuesday off. This was perfect because then, we could just leave two days early as our original exit date was to be Wednesday. We tell her that we will work those days, but would collectively decide if we would like to go to Naples or not. "As you like," she responds, which half the time is genuine and the other half is passive-aggressive nonsense.

We pick chestnuts, as per usual, and fill the bags. Lunch. More picking. Dinner. We then talk to Rosa and tell her that we will leave on Monday as she said, but that we will not return. She is confused- Why is everyone leaving? We explain that we had told her that Wednesday was our last day, and if we were to get Monday and Tuesday off it would make so sense to make the trip just to get our stuff. She seems to get it, but still is overcome with worry because it means that she will lose 4 workers in one day. Even though she had just told us this morning that more were coming, and that the chestnut harvest has ended, suddenly she doesn't know when they will be arriving, or if she will have enough volunteers.

Her crazy was all gone the next morning. We were all tripping out because it had apparently been daylight savings the previous night (and thank God, because we had stayed up till 1am!) and Rosa was already up and assembling lasagna. She told us that we would finally be having it (she had been promising it for a week), and did not begin picking chestnuts until 9:30am. Time dragged on, but we pushed through- knowing it was our last day was both a blessing and a curse. The lasagna was amazing. I was dreading it because she said she put hard boiled eggs in it and I thought that sounded disgusting…but trust an Italian woman….it was amazing. She had a vegetarian lasagna made as well as a meat one, followed by 4 heads of steamed broccoli, a bowl of boiled onions, a pan of chicken breast, and bread. Stuffed to the gills, were then pleasantly surprised to find out that we would not be picking anymore chestnuts! Instead, we would be returning to her sister's restaurant to finish cleaning.

We only stayed for about an hour, pretty much doing nothing, before Rosa drove us to the mountain-top town of Montefusco, about 700 meters higher in elevation than Montefalcione. You could see the lights of every surrounding village. It was pretty beautiful. She walked us around the town, just because she thought we should see it. It was amazing having the old Rosa back, especially for our last day. It would have been so horrible to have ended our stay here on the negative note that was left in the air just two days ago.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Scissors are in the Chicken!

Day Thirty

I'm at the point of not being able to stand it here any longer. This has occurred only recently since Rosa has apparently gone bat-shit insane. We picked up the new WWOOFers on Monday and ever since she has been out of her mind. There have been less chestnuts in the fields now that we have been picking every day, and it is hard to do anyways because the rules are constantly changing. Some days you are told to not pick up the small ones, and other times "all sizes are good." Then we are told that we should pick all that are bitten because the "animals eat only the best." Yesterday, however, Rosa returns in a panic. She returns from the factory looking as though she had just returned from a fight with a badger, and tells us that the man did not pay her for ANY of the chestnuts because they were so awful. She says, "The man said that 70% were bad, and he not pay me." She then proceeds to give us a lesson on what is a good chestnut and what is a bad chestnut- a class that is about 3 weeks overdue by this point. I bring up the fact that she told us to pick chestnuts with the holes, and the small ones and she denies it adding, "one is okay, but not all."

Later we remember that on Tuesday she made us separate the good chestnuts from the bad, and that she had brought the whole bag of bad ones to the factory. We suggest that perhaps this is the reason for the lack of payment- maybe he opened up the bag we had set aside of bad. She doesn't acknowledge what we have said, "They do this at the factory, I do not decide. Massimo had gone before and then they were also bad" Really? Then why the fuck is this the first time we are being told about it? If they have been not getting paid for THREE WEEKS of chestnuts, why NOW are they deciding to tell us what's wrong. I am fuming at this point.

Today we picked and she got mad because she "is older and slower and she picked a whole bag [her]self, while [we] have only picked three for five of [us]!" Keep in mind this "full" bag was only 1/4 of the way full, and most of the chestnuts looked JUST like the bad examples from the day prior! Jess confronted her about her chestnuts and she told us that hers were not as small as the others, and that a little bitten is okay because it is hers. She had also told Jake earlier that if we didn't want to pick chestnuts we could go home. That had me roaring. I am always up for that game - someone wants to threaten me with going home, I'll fucking leave. She needs our help far more than we need hers. Rosa does not even feed us half the time, there is no heat, she refuses to let us put the firewood under shelter so it s always wet and we cannot make fires, we cannot take showers because we can't heat the water- I really don't even know what we are getting out of this anymore other than a fucking headache and a large dose of rage virus. I would much rather be lost in the beautifully majestic Positano than here right now.

The only redeeming thing about being here is the other WWOOFers. They are all really funny, and we're all so different with completely different life experiences that we have loads of stories to share with each other. For this reason, I love being here. It is also a comfort knowing that we are all about at wits end with Rosa, and that it's not just me who thinks she's lost it. It's sad to watch, like seeing someone half-way effected by anesthesia or something, but more than sad it's fucking annoying.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shall We Go?!

Days Twenty-Six & Seven

It was 5:40AM and Rosa was honking the horn. She was going to Avellino to pick up a new WWOOFer, and had agreed to take Jessica, Jake, and I to the bus station so that we may spend the day in Napoli. It was pouring, and it certainly did not help Rosa's driving any. We had picked up another WWOOFer the previous day, so even though we were leaving town we knew the two of them could have the day to bond and settle in.

We had decided to spend the day in Pompeii which would be the first time for all three of us. Luckily, we brought umbrellas because Rosa's statement that, "it never rains in Pompei!" did not hold true. It was pretty crazy being there, especially envisioning what it must have been like to live there. There was one part where we could stand in the streets and see Vesuvias towering overhead, and imagined how terrifying it must have been to see lava and smoke pouring out of it in 79AD. Gah, blows my mind.

It's amazing how much a day hanging out in ancient ruins can take out of you! We had originally intended upon spending the rest of our afternoon in Napoli, but between the rain and the exhausted legs we were all traveling upon, we chose to return to Montefalcione. I FINALLY got some gelato in Avellino at a small cart near the bus station 1 Euro! Ugh. I wanted more, but Jake said no :((((( Anyways, we continued back to the house to find it completely dark and us locked out. Jessica called Rosa who said that she would be there in five minutes (which, in Rosa-time, is actually about an hour). She eventually returned with Mar (from Spain) and Robby (from South Africa) and we all exchanged pleasantries as we helped carry items inside.

The following morning, it was rainy so we would not be picking chestnuts. Instead, we went to a small building that is used by the family to host events, teach organics, and I suppose was once used as a banquet facility. Our job was to clean the kitchen that hadn't been used in 5 years (and hadn't been cleaned when last used). The flat-top was COVERED in rust. Absolutely covered- and I took it upon myself to remedy it. A bottle of coke, some steel wool and about 8 hours later (in shifts, of course) it is now good enough to cook on! There is still some black on it from where it hadn't been cleaned after use, but 98% of the rust is gone. I told Rosa that every time she is going to cook, she should scrub it down with coke first to be sure no rust has returned (especially if she is going long periods of time between cooking). The fry-o-later is a different story, though…This was Jake's task and it was messy! There was about 3 inches of congealed oils on the bottom of the machine, which still needs some work.

It was really great doing something different, and Jake and I both acknowledged how weird it was to be so excited for a deep clean. Something about it sparked pleasant memories that I didn't know I could have for a kitchen again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Too many puppies...

Day Twenty Three through Twenty-Six

Since finding El Dorado we have not had to go to either of the first two farms Jacob and I went to. This is a very good thing because not only do I loathe the other two farms, but I absolutely love this newly discovered one. It has everything I like about the first two minus everything I hated. There is even covering to protect from wind, but not so dense that you cannot move. It has a slope that makes it easier to pick, but not so steep that you can barely stand. Plus, the chestnuts here are significantly larger, and there are more of them. This farm is so large that despite going there every day, we are at a different area every time.

Massimo has started bringing us there by tractor which is both awesome and terrifying. It is awesome because we are riding in a freaking trailer but terrifying because he hits trees and almost dumps us over multiple times per trip. Two days ago, Rosa rode with us- poor lady- and kept yelling (In Italian) "Let me out! I want out! I WANT OUT! I AM AFRAID!" with a death grip on my knee. Keep in mind she is a grandmotherly type of woman so it's not like watching a friend where you can laugh. It was like watching an old woman fall down the stairs- it breaks your heart. Finally Massimo stopped and let her out, but the rest of us stuck it out. It was beginning to rain and I would personally rather move quickly and risk danger than be stuck in the rain. Call me crazy.

That morning, Rosa brought us to Montemilleto to buy some new wool clothes at the market. It was pretty awesome, and they had a lot of various things for sale. Pigeons, for example, and also veggies, hats, clothes, books, plungers, you name it and it was probably there. Jake and I walked away with a total of 5 sweaters for 11 Euro. BALLIN'! Needless to say with, "the wool on the skin," (as Rosa constantly says) we have been very warm and cozy every day.

However, yesterday was a different sort of day. Rosa had said that we would only have to work a half day which was already awesome, but even better was that she was bringing us to her walnut farm in another town! We didn't begin working until 10am, and when we arrived we were greeted by six of the most adorable, ratty, sweet baby puppies you'd ever imagine. Momma pooch was tired and annoyed, but stuck around long enough to be sure we weren't a threat. No problem, though, because Papa pooch (who more-so resembled a fucking wolf) didn't go far and kept a good eye on us. Each puppy was missing a bit of fur here and there, except for two who looked fully intact. One, a little girl pup whom Jake and I named "Chuck" and another tiny one who I named "Piccolo" (Italian for "tiny") because it was the smallest of all the puppies. We picked walnuts for a few hours which was fun and also disgusting. Walnuts come in this rotting fruit that you need to peel away to get to the nut- luckily a lot of the fruits were dried and just broke away. We collected about two bags of walnuts before eating our picnic of cheese, bread, fresh tomatoes, and hard boiled eggs under the hazelnut trees.

After saying our goodbyes to Chuck, Piccolo, and the rest of the puppies, we all piled in the car and made our way back to Montefalcione.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Do you guys say 'beezy?'"

Days Seventeen through Twenty Two

We have reached the point in the journey where keeping track of days is not only pointless, but physically impossible. For one, we don't have a lot going on so a day by day play by play is kind of stupid and boring; for two, instead of wasting time every day regurgitating the factoids of every day, I have been spending time studying Italian more thoroughly.

Sunday morning, Jacob and I were the market goers for Rosa. We both wanted to go so sure enough at 6:25AM we packed into the Skoda as follows: chestnuts and all sellable goods in the seatless back seat, Rosa in the driver seat, and Jake and I in the passenger seat. Now, you are probably wondering how two humans can fit in the front seat of a tiny car, so I will describe it to you more thoroughly.


Needless to say, it was not the most comfortable two hours of my life- but we made it to Naples, and we made it alive. It was a crazy day- we weren't aware that we would actually be helping Rosa DO anything so when we were taking orders and making change and speaking in Italian, it was pretty overwhelming. Of course, many people got frustrated with us, and some we had to direct to Rosa to answer their questions, but that would have happened even if we knew the language- it is her product and no one knows it better than her.

After the market, we met with her son and sister and went for some amazingly delicious Neopolitan pizza followed by, of course, gelato. It was the perfect end to one of the most mentally invigorating days I had had since arriving in Rome.

On Monday a new WWOOFer arrived from California named Jessica. She has been in Italy since June going to college and recently graduated so she is hanging out in Montefalcione for a few weeks checking out the area (and obviously picking chestnuts). It is pretty awesome having another girl around, and seeing as I never get along with girls it's pretty remarkable that I enjoy her company. She speaks Italian very well and has many resources that she is letting us use in order to improve. All in all, she was pretty much the perfect addition to our group. However, Wednesday was Felipe's last day here so we only had a short group bonding experience Tuesday evening.

We all went out to Enjoy Pub where we received many skeptical looks, but were quickly redeemed by the language skills of Felipe and Jessica. We began attracting a crowd including an old man who insisted on buying us drinks (something he never fulfilled, mind you) from the bottom of his heart, and a young man named Jean-Luc (what kind of Italian name is Jean-Luc?!) who insisted on getting in Jessica's pants (another thing left unfulfilled, might I add). Three beers and a shot of Jagermeister each later, we wandered home to continue the festivities with a Brazilian card game called "Sweden." If you have ever played "King's Cup," you have played "Sweden." Eventually we ran out of wine, which was probably a good thing because by that time "Black Out Jen" (as we call the drunk alias of Jessica) had arrived and we were comparing the sizes of our hands while Felipe and Jake were busy proving each other's manliness. It was a great last hoorah with Felipe, though it was something pretty much all of us would be feeling the next morning.

Wednesday morning was a rough one for Black Out Jen- physically, for Jake, though it was purely emotional. It was the morning of Felipe's departure, and it meant that the bromance was about to end. Luckily, though, Felipe left behind some clothes that Jacob has been able to wear so it is as though he is permanently in Felipe's embrace. Ha. No, it's not really that gay, but almost. Only a little gay I guess. However, we did move our room to Felipe's old room which is sweet because now we have our own bathroom and porch-side shower. My allergies are also SOOOOO much better than they were in the other room. This day was not much fun in the chestnut world, but we did come across what Massimo dubbed, "The El Dorado of Chestnuts," that we would be picking at for the next few days. These chestnuts were ENORMOUS. As big as the ones I saw with Rosa that time I went to the large tree with her and her sister. "Chestnuts of Gold," Massimo claimed, which I translated to Jacob as, "MON-AY!"

We are slowly (it feels, anyways….Jessica says we are fast) learning Italian. I can now say a few choice phrases about the weather, my day, and what I am doing. It is rough understanding us I think, but I am finding more and more similarities to French and it helps a lot. Mostly in verbs, but it is something at least. Every day, Jake and I write a sentence about our day in Italian and even when I dream I am trying to speak Italian. Felipe told us that the first night we have a full dream in Italian will be when we know that we have become fluent. I am very excited for that day. Rosa is letting us go to Naples on Monday which is exciting- after that only one more week until we make our way to Positano.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Inner Workings of a Serious Loser.

Sometimes I get in this self-hating mindset where I wonder what I'm doing with my life. Top of my list of gripes are usually: I have few friends, I don't have a college degree, I don't have a husband or child or settled down family of my own, I prefer knitting to going clubbing. It makes me feel like a loser. Like one of those people you look at or casually remember and go, "oh yeah...her." But this is the first time that I have had that feeling while on a long-term adventure across Europe. When that feeling morphs into one of, "If you feel like THIS makes you a loser, then wow, you really are one," you know?

Let's attack my mind for a minute, which is normal considering what this entire post is about...First gripe: Few friends. Well, you can do the whole "quality over quantity" bit, but I think the more relevant fact is that I have spent the last like...two years straight with my best friend, including that fact that we're, I don't know, traveling the world together? Also, I feel like if I had a college degree, it would be kind of a waste if I were spending my time gallavanting around Europe all willy-nilly (which would be financially difficult if I preferred clubbing to knitting), and finally, nearly impossible if I had children.

So when you go back over the reasons why I feel like a loser, it makes sense that I would feel more like one for wanting to be "normal." Being all settled in, tied up in a pretty bow, would mean that I wouldn't be spending the next four-five months exploring the world and doing whatever the fuck I want. I mean, I just decided that I want to go to Belgium for my birthday. Belgium. For my birthday. Who does that? Well, I'm sure people in Europe can do it more reasonably, but the point is that if I wanted to see anything in the Eastern hemisphere, I could be there within about 24 hours. And I think that's pretty freaking awesome.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Day in Napoli

Day Sixteen

Despite the long period of sleep each of us got, none of us were in the mood to be awake at 8:00AM. There was no coffee, no food, and it was foggy enough to be intimidating, but not enough to complain. Massimo came downstairs and asked if we were ready to go. He was dressed in a suit because today he was to accompany a friend to the hospital. The previous day, he had told me that he would drop us off at the chestnut field, leave for a few hours, and return to pick us up. I already knew it would be a lazy day. Only moments after seeing if we were ready, he yelled to me through the door, "Katy!" because this is what he always calls me, "Katy! Or if you like, you may go to Napoli. The weather here is no good, but in Napoli- much better." Not wanting to be the only one with a day off, I turned to the boys, "Napoli?" I shrug, "YES! We much prefer Napoli!" Felipe exclaimed. And that was that.

Massimo drove us to the bus stop in Montefalcione where we were to catch the bus to Avellino and then to Napoli. While we are there, we make friends with heavy accented Italian woman who is apparently from Boston, and a short, slick haired Englishman. They picked our brains about Obama and the dealth penalty which made me a bit uncomfortable. I tried to avoid the whole thing because I figured being undecided would be in my favor- I was later told by Felipe that no matter what I should just say that I love Obama and I will have friends everywhere in Europe. Good to know.

We board the bus and about two hours and a transfer later we are in Napoli. For the first time in our trip, we were both okay with not having any idea where we were or where to go. There were three of us, and one of us knew some Italian so all was well. We wandered around pretty much all day, stopping for a some espresso and then moving onto a pizzeria. In between, though, we passed through a very large and crowded market. We weaved in and out of the screaming Neopolitans; "Prego! Prego!" trying to force their welcomes, but mostly just intimidating us. We saw many clothing vendors (Bras for only 2 Euro! If it is there next time I am buying like 7! Bras are almost $30 back home!), pescherias (which I like to translate as "fishery" but in the context of "witchery" rather than a "hatchery"), and butchers galore. Sitting atop the cooler of one butcher were three large pig heads as though they were trophies. My immediate though was how badly I wanted to bring one home to make head cheese. It was then that we decided to get some lunch- we thought it would be the best idea ever to EACH get a pizza at the restaurant since we were so hungry, but it was pretty unreasonable on our parts. The pizzas were enormous, and I still have no idea how we managed to pack all three of those away in our bellies.

We decided to walk off our pizza babies, and headed towards the archeological museum but were blocked by about 25 polizia and even more up ahead. Uncomfortable, and with my inner voice screaming, "GTFO! GTFO!" Felipe made us keep walking. I say made, but obviously I had a choice a. listen to the voice and stay behind, getting swallowed by the mob of people and separated from the only two humans I know or b. go with my friends. I decided that if it were something that bad I would rather be in danger with my friends than in danger alone- so I followed. Turns out it was just some guys hanging over a balcony a few stories up in protest of some labor dispute. I still do not see the need for that many guns and protective vests if that was all. We finally convinced Felipe to keep moving, and continued through a maze of narrow streets coated alternately in street art and gang tags until we came across a gelateria where we proceeded to eat mass amounts of the ice creamy goodness.

Bellies fuller than we could have imagined, we spent an hour at an internet cafe before heading back to the bus station. On the ride home, we watched Mount Vesuvius in the distance as the clouds surrounded it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"It is a beautiful day for picking chestnuts, no?"

Day Fifteen

I hit the snooze button at 7:45AM and took the extra 10 minutes to not only accept the fact that I was still tired after getting 10 hours of sleep, but also to mentally pump myself up for the day of chestnut picking that was inevitably ahead of me. We had been dreading our daily ritual so much the last few days that I though, hey, maybe if I realize that I will definitely be doing this and remember how much fun I had the first day….maybe… won't be so bad. I say "so bad" as if I am experiencing the difficulties of a migrant worker or a slave, but as Jake, Felipe, and I would discuss later, it is more like a mosquito bite. It's not terrible, it's actually not even remotely close to being anything unbearable, but you still don't enjoy it- and after awhile of scratching, it gets pretty freaking annoying. You could always put on an extra layer, use some bug spray, or whatever, but it's not annoying enough for you to care enough to change the circumstance. It's like that with chestnuts- we don't get so aggravated with it that we would take the time to leave, but it's still not our favorite thing in the world.

Anyways, we get up and head to our usual farm where the chestnuts eagerly greet us in mass quantities. This is a good thing, because it means we can scoop them up more quickly and fill our bags faster. Massimo brings us each a sandwich and says that we will be eating there and continue working because it is supposed to rain, and he would like us to keep working until the rain begins. We eat our sandwiches, pick some more bags, and he comes down again. This time, he is bearing three more sandwiches, some bananas, and three beers (they actually sell them in three packs…perfect!) and tells us to eat some more, take a break, and then pick one more bag each. Fair enough- except that we had already done so much picking that it was no longer quick and easy. After an hour and a half of picking, and having only filled half a bag each, we called it quits.

Once we returned to the house, we watched as the sky suddenly transformed from clear and beautiful to dark, grey, and ugly. Within the hour it began raining…thunder and lightening even! Jake and I played cards in hopes that it will subside long enough to go get some ice cream, but first needed to check with Massimo on whether or not they accepted debit cards. Massimo's English is much worse than Rosa's- but it doesn't hurt any. In this case, he thought we were looking for a bank which works because then we could get cash and there would be no problem. He had heard us talking about ice cream and drove us all over Montefalcione on a search but all supermarkets were closed ("oh, they are always closed Thursday afternoons." I can't imagine that ever being normal). The gelato bars, still open, were not serving gelato because, as Massimo says, "it is like winter here now." Seriously? LIKE WINTER? It's no less than 50 degrees a day and you get some rain….that's winter? In the mountains? Of Italy? I'll take it! Even if it means no ice cream!

We thank Massimo for carting us around and return home. I don't recall what we had for dinner, but more than likely it was pasta related and delicious. We stayed up talking as usual, but still called it an early night- about 9:30PM.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"You like my cooking ways? Ah HA! I am a master chef!"

Day Fourteen

Mother nature played a big ole "gotcha" on us this morning by greeting us with a rainstorm harder than we have seen since arriving in Europe. Relieved, but still remembering that I needed to do the dishes from last night, I got up and set to work. By 9:00 the buckets of rain had ceased and the sun was beginning to peak its way through the fog. Massimo came downstairs and mumbled something to us, and we followed him outside to the garage.

Our task today would be to peel labels and plastic seals off of old wine bottles that we would then wash out, fill with wine, recork, and seal. It was quite a process, but a relief to be doing just about anything BUT chestnuts. We took turns cleaning the yard, cleaning the bottles, and destroying spider webs for a good long while before lunch. It was then that Massimo served us pasta with peas and some of Felipe's sausage that he had bought at the market on Sunday. We were told to take a short break, after which we would be allowed to use the internet for a brief period before returning to work.

We awoke from a brief nap to more rain and wonderful news that we would not only be allowed to use the internet but that we would also be taking the rest of the day off! Jake and I used our time to research some hotels in Positano, a small and beautiful town on the Amalfi coast, and made some reservations for early November when we are in between farms. It was exciting making plans but not in an obsessive way that we had been making them for the past year. It was like planning a vacation, and it was wonderful. Felipe came out to join us around 6:00PM, and we cooked ourselves a small feast quite reminiscent of the night prior- fire roasted potatoes with onions, chestnuts, beans, bread, however we also added hard boiled eggs, mozzarella, and finished off the evening with some gelato.

While it was a great movie, it was probably not wisest to watch Zombieland on such a full stomach. Bluhhck. But yes, it was pretty good. We tidied up the dining room and kitchen, calmed the fire, and got tucked into bed. Although I love my time here very much, I am also looking forward to Positano. I feel like if I keep getting days off I am going to get fat from all the pasta, but I hate picking chestnuts on the same farm. I am hoping that sometime soon they will take us to one of their other farms where we will be able to have a plethora of chestnuts to pick. The one thing that will never get old is the scenery- especially with the ever changing weather. As we were surfing the web this evening we even had a thunder and lightening storm! We will see what the weather tomorrow will bring, but I would certainly not object to some fresh, dry, warm rays of sunshine- that's for damn sure.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The winding roads

Day Thirteen

The fog still hung in the sky like damp laundry as we awoke. A simple breakfast of cereal would do while we waited for the rest of the house to get moving. Around 9am, Massimo came downstairs and announced that we put on our boots, grab our gloves, and head to the Skoda (which now has an actual back seat!). We drive along the windy roads of Montefalcione to a small farm that Jake and I had not yet been to. It had four large chestnut trees- two at the top of the hill and, of course, two at the very bottom. In between was a large downward field of baby chestnut trees which, upon sight of them Jake's first reaction is, "I feel bad for the poor souls who come to this farm 10 years from now." And with that, we began picking. Slipping in mud, sinking in, and plucking handfuls of chestnuts into burlap bags was the ritual for this day until about noon.

This day, Felipe was originally supposed to climb one of the largest mountains in the area. Massimo had misunderstood and thought that he just wanted to be driven there, not knowing that Felipe really just wanted to hike it. After clarification, Massimo still drove us to the mountain to take a look and so that we may measure the distance. Up and up we went through a couple of different villages. The higher we climbed, the thicker the fog became until it was practically smothering us. We could barely see in front of the car, it was so thick, until we broke through the other side. It was as if we had gone so high up that even the fog didn't dare to follow. From there we could see farms of other chestnuts, apples, sheep, cows, and more. It was beautiful and never-ending….until it did, of course. We came to the point 3/4 of the way up the mountain where the road simply ended. "Up there is the path," Massimo says to Felipe, "If you run into any people- good luck." He laughs, having warned us earlier that, "The people up here not friendly- they be alone." We step out of the car to drink from a cold water tap that comes from the top of the mountain, and filed back into the Skoda, and down the way we had come.

Upon returning to the house, we took a break for lunch. Massimo had said that he would prepare lunch, only if we promised to eat the beans for dinner. "Of course!" we replied, and he began preparing a delicious feast of penne pasta with red sauce, italian (the real deal!) sausage, formaggio dolce, and bread. Stuffed to the gills and ready to fall asleep, we took a short rest before heading back out to our usual chestnut farm. We were all sore, restless, and sick of chestnuts so it took a bit longer than usual to fill the two bags. it also doesn't help that there are three of us, and only so many chestnuts to pick when you go to the same farm every day. Frequently bored of the task, I took several opportunities to plop down into the leaves and simply admire the view. Watching the scenery was much more enjoyable then pawing for chestnuts.

Stopping only briefly to drop us off, Massimo took the Skoda and went to bring our daily chestnut collection to the factory. With the closed gate sounding of freedom, the three of us began building a fire for more chestnuts. The boys also constructed a tin foil package of potatoes and onions that we were then going to eat with the beans and rice. As the fire was roaring, the food was cooking, and the wine was flowing, we began sharing music with one another, alternately playing songs from back home (USA, Brazil, and UK) that we enjoy. It was funny how much music Jake and Felipe had in common, while most of mine was boo-ed off stage. We ate and talked through Massimo's return home, and stayed up until almost midnight talking about the world, wars, government corruption (you don't know corruption till you've heard about Brazilian government), and eventually our individual game-plans for the zombie apocalypse. The bird clock on the wall chirped midnight and we all realized that unless it rained the next day, we were going to be screwed if we did not go to bed soon. And with that, we did.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"My juices are the best!"

Day Twelve

Our first rainy day in Italy is more beautiful than those we encountered in Ireland and France. Of course, it could be because we had a roof over our heads or because it also meant a day off from chestnut foraging, but whatever the reason, it was a good day. We awoke at 7:45 as usual, and prepared a breakfast with the leftover potatoes from the previous night, proscuitto, and poached eggs. Rosa had come down and told us that she would be leaving for Napoli with her son and sister and that we would check with Massimo about our work for the day- her only request was that we clean the dining room and kitchen at some point. No big deal- we clean those right away with a quick sweep and mop and return to our room to wait for Massimo to come downstairs. I take a quick nap, as I am still exhausted somehow, and Jake reads. The whole day went a bit like that- Massimo left for a few hours, and then returned. Then he left again and Jake, Felipe, and I shared some formaggio dulce, red wine, and sausage while watching Ricky Gervais on Felipe's computer until Massimo returned. We enjoyed our lunch of beans and rice, and sat for a bit.

It was then that I had enough of being cooped up, and demanded to the boys that we go explore. We wandered throughout the village, picking up some condensed milk and cocoa for Felipe to make some Brazilian candy, and began searching for the "Dream Bay Disco Pub & Internet Cafe" which apparently doesn't exist to the knowledge of anyone in town. However, I notice the sign every day when we return from picking chestnuts. I mean, c'mon….Disco Pub? That's something you HAVE to find if there is a sign for it! I have a feeling the little Italian children just didn't want to share the coolest place in town.

When we returned from our rainy walk, Massimo announced that he would not be preparing dinner- he was too full, and we had too many beans left over. We were to eat those if we were hungry. Felipe proceeded to make his Brazilian candy as Jake and I began to build a fire in the fireplace. Once Massimo retired for the evening, the three of us roasted chestnuts, ate Brazliain candy, and munched on bread with olive oil as we watched Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on Felipe's computer. It was a great night full of wine, food, and comedy, and we certainly hoped there would be another day like this quite soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Would you like some garbage?"

Day Eleven

We decide to wake up at 7:30AM today so that we may actually chew our breakfast before beginning work. Felipe and Rosa had left for the market at 6:45, and Jake and I had been instructed the previous night to speak with Massimo about work in the morning. We eat breakfast, check the laundry, practice Italian, and otherwise get ready for the day before meeting with Massimo to begin work. He informs us that we will be riding in the tractor today, and he is not kidding. We load up into the trailer, and ride to the chestnut farm.

Business as usual, of course. Chestnuts, chestnuts, and more chestnuts. It has only been one other day of work, and they are already all I see when I close my eyes. I find myself discovering patches loaded with chestnuts and my only thought is, "JACKPOT!" About noon we break for lunch, and Massimo cooks us left over rice with beef and rosemary served with wine and mozzarella. I'm telling you, this never gets old. I could literally spend the rest of my life eating this cheese.

We rest for several hours- reading, learning Italian, and often times sitting around looking at the surrounding simply because we can. Around 3PM Jake and I go out, hedge trimmers in hand, to the fig tree that we tried picking the previous day and hacked away at the brambles and thorns that had been causing us so much grief. Fritz sat nearby, watching, playing, munching. Poor Fritz. Lucky Fritz. Both really- he doesn't know that his life is any different from the average dog. In Italy, the dogs are treated as dogs. They live outside, never inside, and get attention when you want to give it. Because of this Fritz gets so excited every time someone is around him. He has fleas, so he does not get much attention- but I also think this makes him less needy. He jumps around and play bows at you as if to say, "I would really love it if you would love me, but I don't expect you to." He is a sweet dog, and reminds me an awful lot of Zoey. The "lucky" part is the fact that with his kibble he is also served all of our delicious leftovers, as well as any apples, grapes, and figs that he can scavenge. That dog doesn't have it TOO rough.

Around 4PM, Rosa calls to me and says that her and her sister are going for a walk in the woods, and would I like to join them? I agree- I could use to get out of the house, and her sister does not speak English so I could eavesdrop and try to learn a few words. On the drive, I heard a few that I knew. Cat being pretty much the only one. We get to a field of grapes that Rosa explains is hers, as well as the next grape field over. We hike through the woods- Rosa with ease, and myself stumbling clumsily behind her. She is a small woman with a large mission- she soon explains that there is a large chestnut tree at the top with the largest chestnuts on their farm. Of course. I volunteer my downtime to pick chestnuts. Not to worry, though, because these chestnuts are really something else. Almost as big as my palm, I can only pick up 3 at a time whereas earlier I could fit about 7 or 8. We continue to pick as I see yet another field of grapes ahead. "Are those grapes?" I ask, just to be sure. Rosa responds in a way that makes it difficult to tell whether she is jealous of this owner or just being honest and says, "Yes, but those are not mine." We wander back through the forest, which, like all Italian woods is full of over-productive spiders. You can literally pass between two trees and get a face full of web, and walk the SAME place 15 minutes later with the same results. There are webs everywhere- the spiders are lovin' them some chestnut forests.

We got back to the car and went to a small neighboring village where I had my first Italian gelato experience. DELICIOUS. However, I will give America one prop: our cones kick so much ass in comparison. Oh well, I would rather have delicious ice cream than a delicious cone….or I could always get a dish. It is getting close to dark and we return to the house. Rosa announces that dinner will be ready at 8PM and Jacob and I retire to our room to play a bit of Rummy. Dinner is fantastic and different- pressure cooked cauliflower (or "garbage" as Rosa mistakenly called it) with olives, oil, and reduced wine as well as leftover rice and tomato sauce, boiled potatoes, hardboiled eggs, and bread. Rosa's son has been teaching Jake and I Italian which is pretty remarkable. He is absolutely brilliant. He can speak both English AND Italian…..and not only that, but he is also able to teach us with ease. It's awesome.

Despite having a very easy day, I am incredibly exhausted- however it could have something to do with the two Benedryl I took before dinner. My allergies are under control while digging through the molded leave of the chestnut farm, but lock me in my bedroom and it's like sneeze-fest 2010. Which reminds me that on this day, in Montefalcione, Italy, it is the only time in my life that the date will be 10/10/10.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Never Been a Better Day to Be a Badger

Day Ten

Our morning begins at 8am when Jake and I quickly get dressed for the day and begin talking about breakfast. As he heads to the kitchen to begin cooking some fresh eggs over mortadella, I take a moment to open our doors to the porch. Taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, all I can smell is fresh, dewey, Italian air. All I can feel is the light, yet brisk, breeze. All I can here…is roosters. I open my eyes, and yes, the mountains are still there. I join Jacob and Felipe in the dining room- Jake with our plate of delicious goodness, and Felipe with his morning coffee. We hear Rosa's sing-song voice dancing down the stairs, "Helloooo! Good morning!" before she begins the quest for boots, gloves, baskets, and water bottles. Jake and I swallow our breakfast whole (something we hadn't had to do since leaving home…I would later say, "We eat too fast for France, and too slow for Italy") and are on our way. We drive in the little green Skado to a gated area where we then spend that next 4 hours picking chestnuts. Looking under leaves, into badger holes, and through spider webs all while hearing the delicate, though intimidating, thud of chestnut pods dropping a few inches from your head. Every now and then there would be lizards or strange bugs skittering along your path, but all in all it was rather lifeless in the area.

Not to fret, though, because as soon as you feel bored with the monotony of harvesting chestnuts, you simply look up and realize, "holy shit, I'm in Italy." You then real into a series of thoughts like, "my biggest concern for today is filling this bag," and, "the most danger I will get in today is possibly falling into a badger hole," and, "no matter how tired or sore I get I know for a fact that in a few hours I will be fed wonderful Italian food and have a warm bed to sleep in." We continue picking until we retire to the house for lunch. Massimo joins us for our meal this time, and Rosa brings us a heaping pot of pasta with red sauce (and of course, wine, mozzarella, mortadella, proscuitto, and pane). We stuff our faces almost to the point of explosion, and as Jake and I get up to take care of our plates everyone yells, "NO! There is more!" Jake and I exchange bewildered looks. More? How can we possibly eat MORE?? We are then told that it is Italian tradition to serve lunch in two parts. First, the pasta, and second the meat. We indulge in a bit of beef that Rosa had prepared with red pepper before returning to our room for a rest. At four, we leave again. The first stop is a small field where Rosa asks us to check for walnuts. No, no walnuts, but there are grapes! Oh, and figs! Oh, and apples! Rosa is picking figs off the tree and telling us to eat them. One after another, after another until there are no more ripe figs on the tree. I would say we ate about 6 each before we continued on. Then we picked fallen apples to bring with us, and also some grapes to eat as we worked.

Next stop was back to the chestnut farm where I almost fell into a badger hole as I wandered through the ferns and trees. As I continued to recover from my CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH A FURRY AND TERRIFYING DEATH (okay, maybe it wasn't THAT bad), we continued to pick two more bags before Rosa squeals that we must pick more figs before sundown. More figs!? Yes, but these are for market. Feeling both relieved and depressed by this statement, we hopped into the Skoda and returned to the house. We are given several flat baskets and sheers when we head to the back yard. Fritz is frolicking behind us as we make our way to the fig trees and begin putting them into the baskets. "Watch Fritz!" Rosa exclaims between Italian swears at the dog, "He loves to eat the figs!" And it is true! Not only will he stand behind you, face between your knees as you pick the figs, but he will also sneak over to your basket and snag one before you are even able to notice. It's okay, though, because once he has one he will lay off in the distance, munching on it for about half an hour. Battling prickle bushes (Or "spikes" as Felipe calls them), we pick about 4 baskets full of figs before finally calling it quits around 5:30.

Rosa prepares dinner for us and, as per usual, it is delicious. This time it is rice with tomato sauce with the usual accompaniments. Next it is my turn for dishes as Jake does our laundry in the bathtub. Let me explain a little something to you about Italian bathrooms. And by explain, I mean share information because I honestly do not understand most of what happens in these mysterious rooms. For one, the showers rarely have curtains. I don't get it. Secondly, there are always TWO toilets. Now, the first one is a regular toilet with a regular flush, but the second one is a seatless potty with a sink faucet on the back. Huh? The only thing I can determine is maybe one toilet it for pee and the other is for the deuce? I honestly have no other ideas. However, here the onesey toilet has the washing machine plugged into it so it is off limits so you must always use the deucer. Let me tell you right now that I have a deep fear of one day taking a poop (we all do it, people!)….it can be anywhere in the world….and the flusher not working. That fear has never been so close to fruition as it is on a daily (or okay, sometimes bi-daily) basis here. And this is why: to flush the toilet, there is a button on the wall. This button is unreliable. In order to flush you must repeatedly press the button for approximately 5minutes before it will begin flushing. Having to pee is such a stress knowing that I am going to be unable to flush and will have to yell to Jake to come do it for me.

After laundry and dishes are done, Jake, Felipe, and I head out on the town. If you have ever seen this small village you would understand how hilarious that statement is. We hike down our road with zero street lights and up to the top of the mountain to one of the only two bars (and only four businesses) in the village for a beer at Dragonfly. Felipe is ecstatic because the volley ball game is on and it is Brazil vs. Italy. He buys the first (and only) round and we relax for about two hours talking about our countries, politics, our theories on education, food, and joke about life in general. By 10:30 we realize how tired we are and make our way back to the house- after all it has only been day one, and if what Felipe told us is correct, we will not be having a day off until we leave the farm.